You’ve invested a lot of money in that high-performance cabinet-style tool box sitting out in the garage. You love the heavy-duty casters. The oversized drawers really get your blood pumping when you think about all the space they offer. Just seeing its bright red color every time you step into the garage makes you fall in love with it all over again.
As great as your tool box is, you have discovered it doesn’t quite meet your needs. After all, there is only so much you can do with four drawers and the space under the lid. Well, we have some good news. Tool boxes can be hacked just like anything else.
How easy is it to hack a tool box? That depends. How handy are you with the actual tools you own? Provided that all of the tools you have accumulated are not just for show, there are lots of crazy things you can do to improve what is an otherwise plain tool storage solution.
I have compiled a selection of 10 hacks you might want to think about. Any one of them would make your cabinet-style box more functional. Implementing all 10 would knock it out of the park.
1. Mount Wrenches on the Lid
You motorheads out there know just how many different wrenches you need to do what you do. You also know that losing wrenches in a seemingly endless debris pile of tools can make the work you do absolutely miserable. Our first tool storage hack is just for you: mount your wrenches on the underside of the lid.
There are lots of ways to do this. One of the easiest is to attach heavy-duty magnets to the lid. Your wrenches can be hung on the magnets for easy retrieval and storage. If you do not like the magnets solution, you can actually buy brackets made specifically for mounting wrenches of assorted sizes.
If you don’t have enough room between the underside of the lid and what sits in the space below it, those same brackets can be mounted to the side of the cabinet instead. This might even be more convenient. Side mounting gives you quick access to your wrenches without having to lift the lid.
2. Install a Laptop Shelf
The lid of your multi-drawer tool chest ends up as wasted space when it’s open. You can reclaim some of that space by creating a collapsible computer shelf. Just cut a piece of plywood to the appropriate size, mount it to the underside of the lid with hinges, and then support it either with chains attached to the upper corners of the lid or collapsible legs that swing away from the bottom. Now you have a perfect shelf to put your laptop on while you’re working.
This hack is indispensable if you use computer software to optimize the settings in your car’s built-in computer. It gives you a stable platform on which to rest your laptop. It also eliminates the risk of you holding the laptop in your hand and accidentally dropping it into the engine compartment while you’re working.
3. Install a Towel Dispenser
This next hack is so obvious we are surprised more people don’t do it: a mounted paper towel dispenser on the side of your box. You only need the dispenser, a couple of small nuts and bolts, and a hand drill. With only about two minutes of your time, you will have a paper towel within hand’s reach whenever you need it.
4. Add a Hand Cleaner Dispenser
Don’t you just hate finishing a job and then realizing your hands are too filthy to touch anything else? That’s not a problem when you add a hand cleaner dispenser to the side of your toolbox. This hack is a lot like the paper towel hack. All you need is a dispenser, a couple of screws, and a power drill. It only takes minutes to do. When you’re finished, you’ll always have hand cleaner when you need it.
5. Divide the Drawers with Foam
A disorganized toolbox is one that is hard to work with. If things are not organized, you cannot find what you’re looking for. But no worries. While a disorganized tool box may be your enemy, foam is your friend. Foam is inexpensive, durable, and it’s easy to work with.
You can custom make your own drawer dividers by cutting foam pieces to fit. Indeed, you can even make custom shaped holders for the tools and accessories that don’t seem to play well with others. And because foam is so cheap, it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. Just start over with a new piece of foam.
6. Install Some LED Light Strips
Lighting has always been a problem for big, cabinet-style toolboxes. Without on-board lighting, it can be tough to see what lies in the deepest recesses of your storage space. But no more. Thanks to cheap LED light strips, your lighting problems are over. Just install light strips on the face of each drawer. The light on one drawer will illuminate the drawer below it. Problem solved.
7. Install a Power Outlet
Even in the era of battery-powered tools, you sometimes need an outlet to get the job done. Here’s what you do: install an outlet in your tool box with a retractable cord. A heavy-duty extension cord works well for this.
Cut off the female end, hard wire the cord to the outlet and then wrap the rest of it around a spring-loaded hose reel. Then plug the male end into a wall outlet. You’ll be able to move your tool box around the shop and always have an available electric outlet. Just be sure the junction box you use is well insulated.
8. Replace the Casters with Tractor Wheels
Remember those heavy-duty casters you love so much? They might be great inside the shop, but try taking your tool box outside where the ground is soft. Your box will sink faster than a bottomless rowboat. The solution is a cheap set of tractor wheels.
You can buy wheels for any lawn and garden tractor online or at your local DIY store. You can get a complete set for under $200, too. Replace those casters with a nice set of tractor wheels and you’ll be able to take your box virtually anywhere.
9. Motorize Your Box
If you are especially handy, why not take those tractor wheels to the next level by actually motorizing your box? Believe it or not, there are plenty of YouTube videos demonstrating this hack. Adding a motor is not only utilitarian, it is also a heck of a good time!
Your best bet is to look for an electric motor that may have previously been used for a winch or lawnmower. You will also need a deep-cycle battery, a chain drive, and a sprocket. And don’t forget to make one of your axles steerable. Otherwise you will have no control over where your toolbox goes.
10. Install a Sound System
There is nothing quite like turning up the music while you’re out working in the shop. For this sort of thing, forget using your smartphone or tablet. And under no circumstances should you use that cheap radio you purchased from the big-box department store. No, you need a sound system worthy of your mighty tool box. Why not build one?
Start by building a wood cabinet just slightly larger than your toolbox. You want some extra room on both sides and on top. In each side you can mount tweeters, woofers, and sub-woofers. On the top is where you will mount the receiver. If you want to go really fancy, get a receiver with Bluetooth connectivity. That way you can control it with your smartphone.
A cabinet-style tool box is pretty functional on its own. But it can be modified for even greater functionality. If you are not afraid to hack your tool box, there are very few limits to what you can do.